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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The roles of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in colon tight junction protein expression and intestinal mucosa structure in a mouse model of acute liver failure

Hong-Li Song12, Sa Lv13 and Pei Liu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases, The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Shenyang 110001, Liaoning Province, PR China

2 Current address: Department of Organ Transplantation, Tianjin First Central Hospital, Tianjin, 300192, PR China

3 Current address: The 5th Department of Infectious Disease, 302 Military Hospital of China, Beijing 100039, PR China

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BMC Gastroenterology 2009, 9:70  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-9-70

Published: 22 September 2009



Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP) is a common clinical disease and one of the most severe complications of acute liver failure (ALF). Although the mechanism responsible for SBP is unclear, cytokines play an important role. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) on the structure of the intestinal mucosa and the expression of tight junction (Zona Occludens 1; ZO-1) protein in a mouse model of ALF.


We induced ALF using D-galactosamine/lipopolysaccharide (GalN/LPS) or GalN/TNF-α and assessed the results using transmission electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, ELISA and real-time quantitative PCR. The effects of administration of anti-TNF-α IgG antibody or anti-TNF-α R1 antibody before administration of GalN/LPS or GalN/TNF-α, respectively, on TNF-α were also assessed.


Morphological abnormalities in the intestinal mucosa of ALF mice were positively correlated with serum TNF-α level. Electron microscopic analysis revealed tight junction (TJ) disruptions, epithelial cell swelling, and atrophy of intestinal villi. Gut bacteria invaded the body at sites where TJ disruptions occurred. Expression of ZO-1 mRNA was significantly decreased in both ALF models, as was the level of ZO-1 protein. Prophylactic treatment with either anti-TNF-α IgG antibody or anti-tumor necrosis factor-a receptor1 (anti-TNF-α R1) antibody prevented changes in intestinal tissue ultrastructure and ZO-1 expression.


TNF-α affects the structure of the intestinal mucosa, decreases expression of ZO-1, and affects the morphology of the colon in a mouse model of ALF. It also may participate in the pathophysiological mechanism of SBP complicated to ALF.